How VOCs Effect Your Indoor Air Quality

  • by Walter Schaffner

What are VOCs

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) refers to manufactured chemicals emitted from solid or liquid products in a gaseous state. Generally inhalation is the most common mechanism of exposure which can cause long-term and short-term adverse health effects. (1)

To have good air quality is not as simple as moving away from the city to a quiet suburb or rural environment, to avoid the industrialized produced pollution highly populated cities are known for. 90% of our time is spent indoors, so even with pristine outdoor air, this doesn't necessarily mean the air your breathing indoors is of the same quality.

The EPA discovered through investigative research that these organic pollutants can be higher indoors potentially ten times higher than outdoors, regardless of whether you live in rural, urban or highly industrialized areas. This prevalence is due to factors such as chemicals being found in thousands of products, many bought by consumers for in-home use, and the inability of VOCs to dissipate in enclosed spaces, which all contribute to poor indoor air quality. 

Common Household products that release VOCs

A few common chemicals that you could be exposed to in your everyday life are: benzene, formaldehyde, and toluene, derived from indoor home products that emit VOCs like paints, building materials, cleaning supplies, office equipment, such as printers, copiers and copy-paper, hobby supplies like craft materials, adhesives, glues and permanent markers, as well as personal care products for example candles(wax), perfume, hair spray and cosmetics, additionally fuels, finished or burning wood, and cigarette smoke from tobacco products all have the potential to release organic compounds when stored or used. 

Health effects Caused by VOCs Exposure Indoors

The VOC concentration, duration and the type of organic chemical exposure influences the type and severity of symptoms a person will exhibit. Some people have shown no symptoms from short-term exposure to VOCs while others are more sensitive to chemicals, such as populations that have asthma. It's important to keep in mind that VOCs represent a large group of chemicals that have their own toxicity and potential to cause different health effects.(2)

The possible symptoms of VOC exposure include:

Acute/Short term exposure (Hours Days)

  • Eye nose and throat irritation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness 
  • Allergic skin reaction
  • Chronic exposures (Years to a lifetime)

  • Cancer
  • Liver Kidney Damage
  • Central Nervous System Damage
  •  

    Controlling the source of VOCs in your Home

    Be cognizant of what kind of products you're purchasing, using and keeping in your home. Reading product warning labels and following manufacturing directions is a safe and easy way to reduce exposure to organic pollutants. Try to minimize the use of scented products like candles, incense and plug-in aerosol deodorizers. When shopping make sure to check products labeled for “containing low VOCs” before purchasing items for in-door use. Purchase only what you need for home projects requiring paint and solvents so that you don't have to store these products after use. Take inventory and safely dispense of old or unused products containing VOCs. To properly dispose of these items contact your local municipality, city and county for guidance.

    Ventilation

    Another great way to reduce exposure to VOC emitting products indoors is ventilating and creating adequate airflow. This can be done by simply opening windows and doors to allow fresh air in, which will significantly dilute the concentration of VOCs when using pollutant emitting products in your home. 

    Be sure to check your outdoor air quality before ventilating. Some areas of the world experience heavy chemical and particle air pollution which could be detrimental rather than beneficial to your indoor air quality. 

    Install an Air Purifier

    Even with ventilation and a reduction mind-set it still may seem daunting to truly achieve a home free of VOCs with so many different indoor products containing organic pollutants and their prevalence in modern society. But adding the right kind of technology in-doors is an excellent way to rid VOCs from your home. There are many different air purifiers on the market but not all can inactivate and trap organic gas pollutants, when choosing one for your home make sure that they have an activated carbon filter for removing VOCs.

    Activated Carbon Filter Technology?

    The activated carbon filter is designed to absorb gaseous pollutants originally developed by the military as a defense against chemical warfare. Activated carbon technology functions by the chemical phenomenon of adsorption. Adsorption is defined as the adhesion of molecules, chemicals or atoms from a gas to a solid surface. This process makes a film from the adsorbate (VOCs) to the surface of the adsorbent (activated carbon). Once an area of the filter has adhered to a chemical, that same adsorption point is inactivated. Fortunately activated carbon is highly porous. One gram of activated carbon having greater than 32,000 square meters of surface area on average, which is essential to arrest VOCs effectively from your home.

    Smart Air Pro

    The largest air purifier in Smart UVs product line is the Smart Air Pro, an excellent addition to your home, incorporated with activated carbon technology. The Pro comes with a 16 inch tall and 12 inch wide activated carbon filter that contributes to the Smart Air Pros efficient regulation of air quality, resulting in cleaner air and the elimination of any dangerous VOCs and chemical air pollutants accumulating in-doors. In addition to the carbon filter the Pro comes with a 16 inch tall and 12 inch wide true HEPA filter, designed for removing larger particles such as dust, pollen, pet dander and other types of particulate matter. By paring these filter technologies together the Smart Air Pro will bring you crisp, clean air that you deserve while protecting your home from any type of harmful air pollutants.

    This commercial grade air purifier's best feature is its ability to remove hazardous chemicals in a variety of different settings. The Smart Air Pro can cover 800 square feet in 1 hour, allowing for efficient air purification, whether it is used at the office, healthcare facilities, academic institutions or large homes, regardless of an open house plan, large rooms or high ceilings.

    Smart Air

    Another exceptional air purifier for reducing VOCs is the Smart Air. The Smart Air is a small, compact and convenient mobile unit, perfect for all rooms in your home. The smart air will provide powerful filtration, covering 300 square feet to get the air quality you want, without creating clutter, hassle or cramping your living space.

    Both the Smart Air Pro and Smart Air use a three-stage filtration system, one being the activated carbon filter. To learn more about Smart UVs air purifiers follow the link here SmartAir | Air Purifier for Small Rooms– Smart UV

    References

    1. Volatile Organic Compounds' Impact on Indoor Air Quality | US EPA. (2020). Retrieved 30 December 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality
    2. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Your Home - EH: Minnesota Department of Health. (2020). Retrieved 30 December 2020, from
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